DEERFIELD, Mass. -- After he went off to college, Michael Zimmerman returned when he could to Deerfield Academy, the elite boarding school he had attended for three years. On one visit to the campus, which rises in vine-covered brick from a rural stretch of this small town, he was invited by his former dormitory master, Michael Bois, for a glass of wine.
Mr. Bois wanted to know about a mathematics teacher named Peter Hindle, Mr. Zimmerman recalled, a man whose outsize presence had earned him, by many accounts, near-universal admiration and an affectionate nickname, the Czar.
"He said, 'What is it about Mr. Hindle that everyone seems drawn to?' " recalled Mr. Zimmerman, now a technology consultant in Atlanta. Mr. Hindle once bet Mr. Zimmerman that he couldn't learn some jazz piano in a month, a wager that inspired him to study music.
"I was surprised he couldn't see it," Mr. Zimmerman said of Mr. Hindle's popular appeal. "He knew everybody."
Mr. Hindle, who is now 78, taught at Deerfield from 1956 to 2000. On Saturday, the school posted a letter about a report conducted by a law firm, saying that Mr. Hindle had engaged in sexual conduct with a student there. It also found evidence of similar conduct with at least one other student, as well as evidence that a second teacher, Bryce Lambert, had sexual contact with two students. Mr. Lambert died in 2007; Mr. Hindle has not been criminally charged.
The report led to an inquiry by the district attorney, David E. Sullivan, who said his office would investigate the sexual-abuse accusations and determine whether criminal charges can be brought.
And it has left the tight-knit school and its alumni to grapple with the downfall of two figures who had the status of legends. The school said it would begin with the removal of Mr. Hindle's and Mr. Lambert's names from parts of the school and its Web site.
"The Board of Trustees has determined to rename the Peter G. Hindle '52 Schoolmaster's Chair, remove his name from the school's squash facility, and forbid him from attending events on campus," read the school's letter, which was signed by Philip Greer, the president of the board, and Margarita Curtis, the head of school. "Further, the board has determined to rename the Bryce Lambert Fund and the Bryce V. Lambert Writing Fellowship."
Former students recall Mr. Hindle as something of a school mascot. He was involved in campus athletics and would even take a turn conducting part of an annual musical performance.
"He was debonair, he was very well-dressed, his hair was well-parted, he had a gentlemanly way about him," said Dave Orrick, who graduated from Deerfield in 1989 and is now a reporter at The St. Paul Pioneer Press. "A guy like Peter Hindle seemed to have a level of wisdom, and a level of openness and warmth that I think a lot of people actually gravitated to."
Reached at his home in Dartmouth, Mass., Mr. Hindle declined to comment.
Mr. Lambert, an English teacher who would, with a blade, cut the word "very" out of student compositions, was known for crotchety quirks of personality. "I actually observed one time where a student tried to reach across the table for something and he actually stabbed him with a fork," said Steve Crampton, a software developer who graduated from Deerfield in 1982 and took courses with both men.
The report said the school responded with written and verbal warnings when a parent raised concerns about Mr. Hindle in the 1980s, and did not interview a former student who raised concerns in the early 2000s. That student came to the administration again last year.
In an interview with the school's newspaper, The Deerfield Scroll, published on Feb. 27, Dr. Curtis said, "I do think it is a time to show honesty and humility, and to admit that very good people and great institutions can also make mistakes."
The investigation makes Deerfield the latest of a handful of private schools to make headlines over accusations of sexual abuse, including the Horace Mann School in New York City, and Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge, Mass.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.